Retired President Mwai Kibaki was not a frontrunner for the Sh450 million Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for 2014, after all.
The foundation’s prize committee, which settled on Namibia’s outgoing President Hifikepunye Pomamba, blamed the media for speculating that Kibaki was among those shortlisted.
The committee chaired by former head of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) Salim Ahmed Salim, however, declined to reveal names of the former presidents who made it to the shortlist, from which the Namibian president was finally selected.
There have been reports Kibaki was among the top three contenders for the prestigious prize, but the committee has denied this.
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“We encountered reports about Kibaki in the media like everyone else, but we did not consider him for the prize. He was not in the shortlist,” said Salim after questions arose on why Kibaki “lost” the prize.
He said while Kibaki was eligible for the prize, since he left office within the last three years, he had not met the requirements for winning the prize, which is based on an index that determines a leader’s performance in delivering good governance to the people.
Established in 2007, the Mo Ibrahim Prize celebrates excellence in African leadership. It aims to encourage leaders to surmount the development challenges.
Salim said Pohamaba won the prize due to his focus in forging national cohesion and reconciliation and his ability to command the confidence and the trust of his people.
The Namibian president is set to leave office this month after the official swearing in of his successor. “During the decade of his presidential mandate, he demonstrated sound and wise leadership. Notably, he maintained his humility throughout his presidency. His commitment to good governance, human rights and freedom of the Press are notable,” Salim said.
The outgoing president was also celebrated for his respect and tolerance for his political rivals, gender equality as well as enhanced investments in health and education, including achievement of almost 100 per cent literacy rates. He has also been credited for cutting down HIV rates and enrolling over 80 per cent of Namibians living with HIV on life-saving medicines.
Winners of the prize are selected by an independent committee, consisting of seven eminent individuals.
Previous laureates include President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011) and President Nelson Mandela of South Africa (honorary).
The winner gets Sh450million in prize money for over ten years and an additional Sh18 million per year for life thereafter.